The major North-South highway that is being planned for Loudoun and Prince William counties got a public rollout of sorts last week. “Open houses” were held at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn and the Four Points Sheraton in Manassas. There were no formal presentations for this new “Northern Virginia North-South Corridor,” just a series ofinformational boards that showed roughly where the limited-access highway would go and why local and state officials think it’s needed. This is not just the previously discussed Tri-County Parkway between I-66 and Route 50. This is the whole enchilada: a 45-mile limited-access highway from Route 7 in Ashburn all the way to I-95 in Dumfries. And the discussion is now officially beginning about extending this road across the Potomac River into Maryland, which makes the warnings from environmental and smart-growth groups of an emerging “Outer Beltway” connecting with the Intercounty Connector and then I-95 in Maryland seem more plausible.
More commuters are moving from roads to rails, according to new census data that show public transportation use up across the region. About 37.5 percent of D.C. residents use public transportation to get to work, compared with 42 percent who drive, according to the 2007-2011 average released by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. In 1999, 33.2 percent took public transit and 49.4 percent drove. Montgomery and Arlington counties experienced similar jumps. The percentage of Montgomery residents taking public transit to work rose from 12.6 in 1999 to 15.2 in the latest census data, while Arlington residents went from 23.3 percent to 27.7 percent over the same time period. The largest percentage-point increase, however, was in Prince George's County. While commuters there still largely favor the car -- 76.7 percent drive to work -- public transit rose to 17.6 percent from 11.9 percent in 1999.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell offered no specifics in his “comprehensive transportation funding and reform” plan to raise an additional $500 million per year to prevent the state from running out of money to build roads by 2017. Speaking in Fairfax County at his annual transportation conference, Governor McDonnell called on lawmakers to stay in session next year until they find a solution to Virginia’s long-term funding woes, which are exacerbated by the transfer of money from the state’s construction fund to required highway maintenance projects. “I don’t think we can wait any longer,” McDonnell said. “I don’t think I can continue to recruit businesses to Virginia and see the unemployment rate go down unless we are able to get a handle on and provide some long-term solutions this session to that problem.”
What makes a good place to work? How about helping employees with an easier commute? Fairfax County, in partnership with theUniversity of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research, recognized seven businesses and two business sites as the "Best Workplaces for Commuters" for 2012. The businesses encourage or support ridesharing, biking, teleworking, alternative work schedules. The businesses even give their employees transit benefits. With traffic congestion the norm across the region, Coalition for Smarter Growth Executive Director Stewart Schwartz says those types of benefits need to be offered by businesses across the region.
Vince Gray beamed as he strode down the aisle, trailed by a cluster of aides and constituents hoping for a photo with the mayor, clutching a fork in one hand and a plate of appetizers in the other. “Imagine how many jobs this will create!” he said. The scene last Wednesday was a preview reception at D.C.’s first Costco, the evening before the 154,000-square-foot store officially opened. Giddy Washingtonians, Marylanders, and local politicos availed themselves of the copious free food and gazed admiringly at the megajugs of liquor and electrical appliances stacked five feet high. Arriving almost exclusively by car, visitors put a solid dent in the Shops at Dakota Crossing’s 2,000-spot parking lot, near the heavily trafficked intersection of New York and South Dakota avenues NE.